NJ girl may be first person in US to carry Longhorned tick

A 12-year-old New Jersey girl who found a Longhorned tick crawling on her stomach is believed to be the first known case involving a human in the U.S. The girl, who was not identified but lives in Bergen County, was not bitten or harmed by the exotic tick. 

She found the tick on her body in early July, and researchers said it was not carrying any harmful pathogens. The tick is believed to have been in the United States for at least five years, but researchers just discovered it last fall on livestock, according to NorthJersey.com.

The Longhorned tick is an invasive species from Asia.  It has been found mostly on livestock and other animals that spend a lot of time in grass.

Researchers said the case involving the girl is important because up until this point, it has not been known what kind of potential threat it may pose to humans. 

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“It’s significant because we know it’s been here for at least five years and we haven’t had any known human encounters,” Dina Fonseca, director of the Rutgers Center for Vector Biology, told NorthJersey.com. “We’re at the bottom of a big mountain in trying to understand the biology of this species in the U.S., so any new discovery in how it acts is important.”

The Longhorned tick, which is native to China, has spread diseases such as SFTS virus and Japanese spotted fever in Asia, NorthJersey.com reported. 

Researchers are most concerned with how this tick will possibly spread diseases on a different continent.

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The mother of the girl gave the tick to a neighbor, Gloria Kim, who gives lectures on tick prevention, according to the report. 

Kim sent the tick to Ticknology, a lab in Colorado, where CEO Heather Szerlong said she had never seen a tick like it before and sent it on to Rutgers for final identification. 

“What’s important and what’s unique is that it was found on a child who had no interaction with livestock,” Szerlong told NorthJersey.com

This is the second Longhorned tick found in Bergen County this month.

It has also been found in North Carolina, Virginia, and Arkansas.